Journal-Times (Grayson, KY)

February 9, 2011

Frankfort gets fancy

By Ronnie Ellis - CNHI News Service

Feb. 9, 2011 —     FRANKFORT – Frankfort was a fashionable place last week even as the legislature limped along.

    Before Tuesday’s State of the Commonwealth speech from Gov. Steve Beshear, Rep. Linda Belcher, D-Shepherdsville, e-mailed colleagues urging them to wear red to draw attention to women’s heart health. They did. One male page showed up in a red dress shirt. Red ties, red dresses and scarves, even an almost red (pink) corduroy sports coat appeared one day on the House floor.

    But that was nothing compared to the sports jacket donned by Rep. Hubie Collins, D-Wittensville, on Thursday. Collins and Rep. Brent Yonts, D-Greenville, annually engage in a friendly competition for the most outlandish sports coats. It was Yonts who sported the pink corduroy jacket. On any given day, the two can be spotted in canary yellow, iridescent lime green, various permutations of plaid, and in Yonts’ case, even a quilted jacket.

    Collins took the Thursday competition. He showed up in the rotunda wearing the purple-est (the only description I can manage) jacket I’ve ever seen. He was there for a rally in support of legislation to require prescriptions for pseudoephedrine, an essential ingredient in the manufacture of methamphetamine. Standing next to Collins was Warren County Commonwealth Attorney Chris Cohron, decked out in a business-like and fashionable dark blue suit, white shirt and red tie. Cohron is neither a retiring personality nor a man of small stature. He was an offensive lineman for Vanderbilt University and before that for his beloved Bowling Green High Purples. He towered over Collins as they laughed and talked. As Collins’ jacket proclaimed, the more diminutive former high school basketball official isn’t exactly a retiring personality either.

    At one point Cohron stared down at Collins’ jacket, smiled and said: “I need to get one of those since I’m still a Bowling Green Purple at heart.” Then he paused, seeming to picture himself in that purple jacket — and how it might look on his lineman’s frame. “Well, maybe not,” he said as Collins guffawed.

    Nearby the fashionable Speaker of the House Greg Stumbo limped to his seat next to the nattily attired U.S. Congressman Hal Rogers before they spoke in favor of the meth legislation. Always dressed in a stylish suits and silk ties, Stumbo — as noted previously in this space — is partial to customized cowboy boots emblazoned with the Speaker’s seal. As he crossed his legs the hiked hem of his pants revealed the seal on one of his boots, Stumbo noticed me looking. When I want to kid Stumbo about his political plans, I always ask if the seal has changed, and it’s become a running joke. So he assumed I was checking out the seal.

    But a very anonymous source had disclosed the reason Stumbo seemed to limp.

    As he walked through the sloped tunnel which connects the annex with the capitol, the heel of one of those customized boots suddenly detached, causing the Speaker to stumble and slip. According to the source, the man who almost never slips politically suffered no damage except to his pride and his pride in those boots.

    “Mr. Speaker,” I asked later, “did I see you limping?” Without missing a beat, Stumbo grinned and reached into the pocket of his coat and produced the prodigal heel and said, “Can you believe that? I’m going to have to talk with the guy who makes these for me.”

    No one seems to count on big things coming from this session of the General Assembly. But you can count on its being entertaining.

    Ronnie Ellis writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at